As I have written about liminal space, the one thing that stands out for me is that, when I find myself in that liminal space, it forces me to focus on what is most important in that moment. We know those people who are considered to be so important that they don’t have time for fun … for family … for self-care … for others. There are many times that people assume that about me. There are those who say that they hate to bother me because they know I am so busy … and there are times that I am tempted to let that be the story I tell myself.
What I have discovered, however, is that liminality … whether experienced in a profound religious experience or following the death of a loved one or even following a surgery … tends to focus me on what is truly important. I have observed over the years that people, no matter who they are, when gathered at funerals, discover that everything they think important in their daily lives suddenly is of little value as they sit and contemplate the mystery of death and the greater mystery that exists beyond death.
In Mark 8, as Jesus has told the disciples that he is moving toward Jerusalem and the suffering and death that awaits him there, it is Peter who takes him aside and rebukes him. Jesus then turns, looking at the other disciples, says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
As I have read and studied non-violent resistance as practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and others who fought for civil rights, what stands out for me is the singular focus of the leaders. Even when Dr. King spoke out against the Vietnam War, he was chastised by others for diluting the message. His speech, Beyond Vietnam, made the claim that resources diverted for the war were resources that were denied Black Americans in their search for justice. While preaching global non-violence, he remained focused on the struggle for justice.
The pandemic has created a liminal space into which we have witnessed the deaths of Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Javier Ambler, and others, and we have watched as the Black Lives Matter movement has called us back to that singular focus. We are people who are called to focus on the ways of God in this liminal space.
So as we hear the words of Jesus spoken to Peter, consider what it means to focus on the ways of God and not our human ways, I think perhaps this is an opportunity to discover how God might use this liminal space to focus our hearts and lives again on things such as care of the most marginalized and vulnerable people … the care of an increasingly vulnerable planet … and how we can create community as God envisions community.
When we focus our hearts in this way, I am convinced we will glimpse the Beloved Community … the Kingdom of God … that emerges from such singular focus. Just perhaps we will come face-to-face with God in this space.
God, you find us in this space where we are beyond what has been and what is yet to be, and you call us to the singular focus of your divine love and your divine ways. May we follow our Christ to the place of singular devotion that your kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven! Amen.